Today's debate on stem-cell research reminds us how intense the search for relief from pain and disease continues to be. Just as the ancient alchemist searched for the elixir of life, the research scientist searches for a cure for disease today.
The need remains urgent. Fewer people are willing to accept the orthodox counsel to endure suffering today in order to reap the promise of bliss hereafter. Many more feel certain that an answer exists, that a cure can be found. History teaches us that many virulent diseases of the past have been conquered. But sad to say they have been replaced by others. Life expectancy may be longer today, but the incidence of disease is not decreasing.
The search continues and sometimes leads people to look for answers in unexpected directions. That was certainly the case for Mary Baker Eddy, the author of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" and the Discoverer of Christian Science.
She suffered from serious ill health for several decades. She and her family explored all the options they could find and/or afford. Sometimes she found temporary relief, but not a lasting cure. Writing about this long search and its disappointments, she explained: "The author's medical researches and experiments had prepared her thought for the metaphysics of Christian Science. Every material dependence had failed her in her search for truth; and she can now understand why, and can see the means by which mortals are divinely driven to a spiritual source for health and happiness" (page 152).
Not helped by medicine, Mrs. Eddy continued to turn with Job-like determination to the Bible, and to prayer, for an answer. She was convinced that the God she knew, the God she believed in, could not be unmerciful. She was sure that God would not cause pain and would not permit it to be inflicted on His children. As no human parent would do this, how could the divine Parent permit this?
Searching the Bible inspired her to view life from an entirely different perspective. She was healed of the ills that had plagued her for so many years, and learned that we have to divorce ourselves from the view that life is formed and governed by the flesh, and instead to embrace the idea that life is spiritual, formed and governed by God. She was healed of the ills that had plagued her for so many years, and learned that freedom from disease did not come to her from drugs or surgical procedures but from Spirit itself, the giver and sustainer of life.
Jesus brought this out in his discussion with the Jewish leader Nicodemus. Jesus told him that if he wanted to understand his works of healing, he needed to be "born again," and continued by saying, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). Jesus told Nicodemus that if one wants to experience the kind of healing he saw Jesus perform, one needs to discover life's spiritual basis. The nature of this spiritual life is explored in Science and Health.
In its chapter called "Genesis," which is relevant to the discussion of stem-cell research, she wrote: "Naturalists describe the origin of mortal and material existence in the various forms of embryology, and accompany their descriptions with important observations, which should awaken thought to a higher and purer contemplation of man's origin. This clearer consciousness must precede an understanding of the harmony of being. Mortal thought must obtain a better basis, get nearer the truth of being, or health will never be universal, and harmony will never become the standard of man" (pages 552-553).
This is a challenge to those who believe that the spiritual essence of life is in the body. This view is challenged by Jesus' words to Nicodemus. Mrs. Eddy's point is equally challenging to the physical scientist who can't conceive of exploring spirituality rather than biology. Mrs. Eddy urges her readers to accept a different paradigm.
To those enmeshed in the stem-cell debate, these points may appear bewildering, even irrelevant. But the fact is that these ideas have rescued untold thousands from desperate pain and disease for over a century. Right now, those desperate for relief will find it fruitful to explore her ideas. They offer the promise of freedom from disease and pain today.